Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended an attorney for three years in the wake of a criminal fraud conviction. The court described the facts that established the criminal conduct:
The plea agreement said that between November 2002 and November 2003, Attorney Hughes' creditors wrote off as bad debt or referred to collection agencies approximately 28 of Attorney Hughes' credit card loans, resulting in over $270,000 in principal debt plus additional unpaid fees and interest. The federal sentencing transcript indicates that Attorney Hughes conspired with his girlfriend to use the proceeds of the credit card loans, without repayment, to purchase a house in Gulf Shores, Alabama. According to the plea agreement, Attorney Hughes agreed to pay restitution as ordered by the federal court for at least the principal amounts owed to the credit card issuers and their assignees for the credit card debts he incurred in the course of the conspiracy to which he pled guilty. The court ordered $146,100 in restitution.
The mitigation evidence was found to justify a lesser sanction of disbarment:
After reviewing the federal sentencing transcript, the OLR recommended a three-year license suspension. Although the offense to which he pled was serious, the mitigating circumstances discussed at sentencing involved Attorney Hughes' immediate cooperation with authorities. In short, he cooperated fully in the investigation and successful prosecution of the co-conspirator and provided documentary evidence to corroborate his account of the scheme. The federal prosecutor observed that Attorney Hughes' assistance was significant, his testimony was truthful, and he had accepted responsibility. The prosecutor said that Attorney Hughes should be rewarded for the extraordinary steps he had taken to pay a significant amount of restitution after being charged and before sentencing.